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Thanks to the iPad, Apple Finally Favored for Business Use

Despite recently weakening consumer sales for both the iPhone and iPad, Apple devices and software have enjoyed a growing presence in business enterprises.

Out of net sales of nearly $234 billion in 2015, some $25 billion came through sales to large business customers, according to Apple’s most recent annual report, released in October. While those sales were just a small fraction of the company’s overall revenues, they grew by 40 percent over enterprise sales in 2014, significantly more than Apple’s overall sales growth of 28 percent, the New York Times reported earlier this week.

Over the past couple years, Apple has hooked up with several other large technology partners, including IBM, SAP and Cisco, to boost its reach into the enterprise market. In 2014, for example, it began rolling out iOS applications aimed at specific vertical markets through the IBM MobileFirst program.

Enterprises Seeking Standardization

“Apple’s iPhones and iPads have become the preferred mobile computing devices for corporations, as industries from insurers to airlines aim to ditch bulky PCs and give their employees the ability to do their jobs from anywhere using smartphones or tablets,” the New York Times reported Sunday.

Those inroads have come in part, thanks to some business customers seeking alternatives to the Android operating system, which dominates the consumer mobile market, according to the Times.

Some enterprise users worry that “Google’s Android software, which are generally cheaper and popular with consumers, have lagged in the security technology and the standardization that companies want,” the Times noted.

Earlier this summer, for example, IBM — long the go-to provider for corporate IT — annouced it was giving businesses the option of offering Apple Pay to their customers through the cloud. Apple’s mobile payment system would help enterprises ensure quick, easy and secure transactions for their users, IBM said.

‘Unique Collaboration’ a Trend

In September, Apple announced another “unique collaboration” with Cisco in which the companies would work together to optimize Cisco’s network services for Apple devices and apps.

“What makes this new partnership unique is that our engineering teams are innovating together to build joint solutions that our sales teams and partners will take jointly to our customers,” Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins wrote in a blog post at the time.

In May, Apple also said it would partner with SAP to develop iPhone and iPad apps for business users. That program sees the companies working together to release a new software developer kit and create a training academy focused on native iOS apps for enterprises.

That program will focus on “industries where the demand for consumer applications is high and there is immediate value add,” noted SAP enterprise platform and analytics president Steve Lucas.

Both the IBM and SAP partnerships with Apple have targeted specific enterprise verticals, including retail, professional services, healthcare, transit and financial services.

In addition to meeting the needs of enterprise customers, such collaborations have also benefitted Apple, especially in light of its recently declining iPhone and iPad sales.

Earlier this summer, Apple reported that third-quarter iPhone revenues declined by 23 percent compared to the same period last year. And Apple reported it sold 40.4 million iPhones for the quarter, down from 47.5 million units from the previous year. While iPad revenues grew, the number of units sold in that quarter was also down by 9 percent to 10 million from the 11 million sold in the same quarter last year.

Apple is hardly the only device firm to see declining tablet sales. That trend has been consistent for most companies in recent years. At the same time, however, Apple has seen its services revenues grow. Earnings from services ranging from iTunes to iCloud and Apple Care grew by 19 percent in the third quarter.

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